Published 6 min read

On the Weekend I Was Watching My Hometown Captured by Terrorists

How was your weekend? Mine was crazy, but not because of a loud party or a crowded music fest. I was watching how my hometown was being seized by terrorists online.
On the Weekend I Was Watching My Hometown Captured by Terrorists
Photo by Denis Demkov / Unsplash

Right Before The Events

Rostov-on-Don, which is my hometown, is located about 100km from the Ukraine border. It's a rather large city, an administrative center of the region with a population of 1.2 million people.

There is a private military company that is taking part in the war between Ukraine and Russia on the Russian side.

The PMC's troops were located somewhere in the territory of Ukraine, on the part which is seized by Russians.

It's claimed that their troops count 25000 people and 25000 more somewhere in reserve. They've got tanks, armored vehicles, rocket launchers, air defense systems, and probably even some air force.

According to the media, there was an ongoing conflict between this military company and the Russian defense ministry.

On Friday, it looked like the conflict reached its peak, and the head of the PMC posted on social media that he was starting a coup.

According to his posts, he was fed up. He was going to seize Rostov-on-Don and then run a raid to Moscow and do justice by hanging up the minister of defense right on the Red Square.

Sounds like bullshit, isn't it?. Do the coups usually start from a Twitter post?

Friday Events

On Friday evening, social media turned into the mutiny's life log.

According to the head of PMC's social media, they were on their way to Rostov.
While moving, they were posting updates like: "We've just downed a heli. Now moving on".

All this felt like a surrealistic movie.

There was no single evidence of what was happening except their messages.

There were a few militarians noticed in the city casually getting prepared to meet the guests. However, everyone was so relaxed that I was 90% sure that this was all fake. However, I couldn't help but monitor the news all night long.

How pissed off I felt when I saw footage of tanks right in Rostov-on-Don city center early in the morning.

Saturday Events

What happened next was that they seized the city.

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It took them a few hours to capture administrative buildings, police stations, and an intelligent services office. They also captured military headquarters, airbases, and depots.

Then they started a raid on Moscow.

Moscow is about 1000km from Rostov. It took them a day to capture several more cities on their way to Moscow, including one with about 1 million people of population.

Despite feeble attempts by government forces and the defense ministry to stop them, it didn't help. The government couldn't invent anything except blowing up bridges and disrupting highways.

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PMC downed six military helicopters and one plane of the defense ministry while moving on. Someone has also blown up an oil depot. A few dozen of people were killed.

The End of Story

When they were about 200km from Moscow, they fell back. The march was canceled, and the captured cities were suddenly liberated.

The official version is that they've arranged with the government to cancel the coup. The government closed the criminal investigation against the PMC.

What the Heck Has Happened

It's a bit crazy for several reasons.

The first one is that private military companies in Russia are prohibited by law at all.

The second reason is that a military coup is prohibited by law.

Furthermore, it's not actually encouraged to capture cities.
Downing helicopters and planes, blowing up oil depots, and killing people - all this is firmly punished by law.

You can't even do it in a GTA video game and stay unpunished.

But for some reason, it seems to be now possible in Russia.

What the Heck Has Really Happened

I'm far from being a conspiracy theorist, but these events were paranormal.

The conflict between the PMC and the government looked real, especially if we consider all the casualties.

The end of the story looked 100% surreal.

According to the officials, it sounded like they "arranged with the rebels to stop doing bad things."

I believe that there was definitely something else, I mean the arrangement.

It's just hard to overlook the difference between how purposeful the coup started and how unexpectedly it ended. I think they have found a way to push on the rebels.

What Was Going On in a Seized City

Luckily, no one got hurt because no one actually resisted: neither police nor militaries.

The government sent some troops, but they didn't try to enter the city.

Not sure about other parts of the city, but everything near the city center was shut down, including shops, banks, groceries, cafes, etc.

Major streets were blocked for people and vehicles. The city itself was cut from the outskirts with a number of checkpoints rigged with explosives.

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As far as I understand, many people just didn't quite realize what was going on. For them, it was an interesting and uncommon event of a large scale, almost like a music fest.

Someone treated the hijackers with food and drinks. Someone took photos with tanks and machine guns. When the troops were leaving the city, a lot of people greeted them like rockstars.

What actually happened was a city seized by terrorists. While many people thought they were spectators, they were hostages.

A lot of people didn't realize that the majority of the possible outcomes of the situation were tragic.

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What I Did

I'm not in Rostov, but I've got a lot of relatives there, including my Mom, Granny, my wife's family, brother, sister, brothers' families, and many other people whom I worry about.

At the very beginning, when there was no proof, I didn't believe that it was really happening. And even if it was, I didn't think that they would actually go to Rostov.
Mainly because the announced goal was to get the defense minister. He was not in Rostov. Period.

Early in the morning, it became clear that their side quest was to capture the city, and they had already captured it. At this point it was definitely too late and too risky to try to escape it.

At this point, we had nothing to do except wait. My wife was panicking. I asked my homies to keep calm and quiet and stay inside.

My rule of thumb: if you were not prepared in advance and got caught with your pants down, wait for at least 3 days until things get settled. If things did't resolve by itself, take actions.

I believe that if the city is big enough, it's much safer to stay inside and in the city other than trying to leave it. In case you can't leave it days in advance.

It's because there is a limited number of roads leading towards the city. Roads are the bottlenecks, and in case of an open conflict, they would be the main targets.

Highways are open areas without a single place to hide. Definitely not a place to find yourself during any sort of a confrontation.

Instead of Conclusions

It's hard to find words to describe my feelings about all this. First, the war outbreak, now we are facing this.

It's just painful to watch what the place where I was born and grew up is turning into.